Return on Inspection: The Advantages of Regularly Scheduled Silo Inspections

Silo inspections are a vital component of any holistic preventative maintenance program. Structural inspections that include exterior wall soundings, cone thickness testing, beam pocket inspection, and interior examinations can provide detailed information about the health of your silos and assist in capital investment decisions for the long and short term. Silo inspections can also help identify safety issues that can be addressed early on to avoid the risk of shutting down operations, ruining valuable material, or injuring staff and employees.

Most silos should be inspected annually. The frequency of inspections depends on the silo’s construction and the material type stored within the silo. Structural silo inspections are appropriate for silos in all industries, including feed and grain, cement and coal.

Below are three advantages to regularly scheduled silo inspections.

Advantage #1: Cost Savings

Silos are major capital investments and can last for decades if well-constructed and maintained. Several issues can arise from poorly maintained silos, including operational inefficiencies like slower load times and lower storage capacity which drastically affect the bottom-line of any business. Additionally, safety hazards can lead to lawsuits, fines, and compliance issues.

Silo owners can improve their return on investment by minimizing repair costs and maximizing the amount of production over the entire lifecycle of a silo. Silo inspections can help identify small issues before they turn into large, expensive problems.

Advantage #2: Improved Safety

A collapsed silo can be deadly. Recently, an owner of a grain silo in Brazil tried to plug a hole with heavy machinery, but the silo quickly collapsed. This video (from Daily Mail) shows the dangerous incident. Thankfully, the owner survived, but that isn’t always the case. The pressure that stored material exerts on silo walls is incredible. Additionally, falling debris from spalling or damaged concrete silos can pose severe overhead threats to operators performing work on the ground near your silos.

A professional inspection will provide a report that outlines any areas of concern in your silo’s structure, helping you avoid safety issues in the first place.

Advantage #3: Enhanced Operational Oversight

Regular inspections keep silo owners and their teams up to date on silo operation, helping identify issues as they arise. Silo issues such as failing internal structures, wall delamination, and cone failure are much more manageable when caught early. Inspections can even assist in identifying damaged conveyance systems, such as clogged or ripped airpads, non-functional slide gates, and worn belts. Making repairs now is a relatively small expense compared to the expense of catastrophic failure on any of these systems.

Preparing for a Silo Inspection

A competent inspection company will have questions during the inspection, requiring owners to gather information before the appointment.

Mole•Master recommends owners complete this non-comprehensive checklist before the inspector arrives:

  • Visual inspection of welds
  • Visual inspection of coatings
  • Visual inspection for corrosion
  • Visual inspection of ladders, guardrails, conduit, or brackets
  • Check that ground water drains away from the unit
  • Check that airflow systems are working

By completing this checklist, a silo owner will be able to identify possible problem areas to review with the inspector, provide information about how long any issues have been going on, and report when maintenance was last completed.

Regular Inspections Are About More than Frequency

Regular inspections should not only take place around the same time each year, but should also happen with the same company.

Silo owners develop trusting professional relationships with the structural inspection companies they work with year after year. The inspectors are able to draw on a large timeline of data to recommend the best and most cost-effective solutions to any issues that arise during the inspection. Silo owners can also be confident that their long-term inspector will do a thorough job.

When it comes to safety and maintenance, trust is key.

Mole•Master has been inspecting and servicing silos for over 30 years. Our professional team is available to discuss scheduling your silo next inspection and to help create an inspection plan based on your specialized needs.

Contact us for more information.